SANTA FE — Former U.S. Reps. Ed Foreman and Bill Redmond have been in the news lately. Foreman endorsed Earl Greer in the Republican 2nd Congressional District primary and Redmond has been asked to provide advice on how the GOP candidate in the 3rd Congressional District might pull out a victory.
Who are these men, you ask? Never heard of them? That’s understandable. They were rare exceptions in New Mexico’s U.S. House delegation. Foreman served only one two-year term. Redmond served just 17 months.
In the past 50 years, New Mexico’s U.S. House members have been able to serve as long as they wanted. The exceptions were Foreman and Redmond, both Republicans, one from the south, one from the north and both elected under unusual circumstances.
In Forman’s case, the federal government decided in the mid-1960s that states having more than one representative in Congress would have to elect them from districts.
Until then, New Mexico had elected its two representatives at large. Reps. Tom Morris and Johnny Walker, both Democrats, had been winning the statewide elections rather easily.
The question became one of whether to divide our state east and west or north and south. Morris lived in Tucumcari and Walker had lived in Silver City before moving to Santa Fe.
So either split might work. The only question for the Democrat-dominated Legislature was which split would be most politically advantageous to Democrats and which candidate should run in which district.
As it turned out, Democrats guessed wrong all the way around. At the last minute, the decision was made to divide the state into northern and southern districts rather than eastern and western districts. And it was decided that Morris would run from the northern district and Walker from the south.
Both lost. Republican Manuel Lujan beat Morris and remained in office until deciding to retire 20 years later. Foreman beat Walker in the south. But two years later, state Sen. Harold Runnels, who had barely lost to Walker in the 1968 Democratic primary, came back to beat Foreman in 1970.
Ed Foreman did not fade into obscurity. Born and raised in Portales and with a civil engineering degree from New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, Foreman went to the West Texas oil fields and was a millionaire by age 26.
At 29, he got himself elected to Congress from Texas in 1962. But in 1964, the Lyndon Johnson landslide wiped out the two Republicans in the Texas congressional delegation.
After his 1970 loss to Runnels, Foreman held top Washington, D.C. government posts during the Nixon and Ford administrations. He then moved to Dallas where he became a hugely successful motivational speaker. At 75, he is still going strong, charging $10,000 per speech plus airfare from Dallas.
In 2006, Foreman and his brother Harold “Chub” Foreman, a longtime state senator, donated $1.5 million to the NMSU School of Engineering.
Bill Redmond came out of nowhere in 1997 to win a special election to replace Rep. Bill Richardson when he was appointed United Nations ambassador by President Bill Clinton.
Redmond was pastor of the Santa Fe Christian Church when he secured the Republican nomination in that special election. Democrats nominated Eric Serna and the Green Party nominated Carol Miller.
Although the district was a Democratic stronghold, the baggage Serna brought with him, plus Miller’s strength, combined to put Redmond in Congress.
The following year, Democrats nominated Tom Udall for the seat. Udall made peace with the Greens and defeated Redmond by 10 points in the 1998 general election.
Redmond now operates a real estate appraisal firm in Los Alamos. He says his phone now rings often with inquiries about what strategies might work to pull out a victory for Republican Ron East over Democratic nominee Ben Ray Lujan.
Jay Miller is a syndicated columnist in Santa Fe. He may be reached by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.